Saturday, August 30, 2008

Praise Report

A legal challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act in a California court has been dismissed, closing the last avenue of protest that a same-sex couple has been using since 2004 to try to get homosexual "marriage" declared a right under both federal and state constitutions. Federal District Court Judge David Carver dismissed the case against the state law Proposition 22 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), despite the May 2008 ruling in California's Supreme Court that same-sex marriage was constitutional in the state. This particular case – Smelt v. Orange County – was peculiar because, according to a Liberty Counsel press release, the same-sex couple who challenged DOMA "had no legal, same-sex union from any state." Mat Staver is dean of Liberty University School of Law and founder of Liberty Counsel, which intervened in the case for pro-family advocates in 2004. He says the good news is that Carver upheld the dismissal of the case by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006 – and another district court judge in 2005 – on the grounds that the couple involved did not have a valid same-sex marriage from another state and that there was no fundamental right to such a relationship in the Constitution.

Christian Persecution

MUMBAI, India (AP) — Thousands of Christian-run schools and colleges across India were closed Friday to protest recent Hindu mob attacks on churches and homes in eastern India that have left at least 11 people dead. Violence has rocked Orissa state since the killing of a Hindu leader last week, which police blamed on Maoist rebels but Hindu activists pinned on Christian militants. In apparent retaliation, Hindu hard-liners set ablaze a Christian orphanage Monday, killing a Christian woman and seriously injuring a priest. The violence has spread to include mob attacks on churches, shops and homes. Orissa has a history of Hindu-Christian clashes generally fueled by Hindu suspicions about missionary work among the rural poor. Roughly 30,000 schools were closed Friday to condemn the violence, said Joseph D'souza, president of the All Indian Christian Council. Churches planned hold special services to pray for peace and solidarity, he said.

Persecution of Women

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — A Pakistani lawmaker defended a decision by southwestern tribesmen to bury five women alive because they wanted to choose their own husbands, telling stunned members of Parliament this week to spare him their outrage. "These are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them," Israr Ullah Zehri, who represents Baluchistan province, said Saturday. "Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid." The women, three of whom were teenagers, were first shot and then thrown into a ditch. They were still breathing as their bodies were covered with rocks and mud, according media reports and human rights activists, who said their only "crime" was that they wished to marry men of their own choosing

McDonald’s Blacklisted

The president of a pro-family values mutual fund company says the extreme actions of McDonald's has forced the investment firm to publicly clarify that its portfolios won't include any stock in the worldwide hamburger retailer. Timothy Plan's socially responsible investing includes screening of companies whose revenues or actions support pornography, abortion, anti-family entertainment, or promotion of non-married lifestyles. "McDonald's actually has been on our screen or prohibited list since 1999 -- so this is nothing new," says Ally. "What is new is the aggressive approach that they're moving to, in promoting and supporting the homosexual agenda." That aggressive approach? The fast-food giant's $20,000 donation to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce for a seat on its board of directors, and labeling of those who oppose the homosexual agenda as "haters" -- both of which Ally says marked an extreme step up from sponsorship of TV programs and movies with anti-family and pornographic entertainment. Those actions, coupled with offering its employees transgender health benefits, have kept McDonald's out of Timothy Plan investments to this point, according to Ally.


Israeli leaders have made a strategic decision not to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, according to the Hebrew daily Ma’ariv, and preparations for an IAF long-range strike on Iran have shifted into high gear in case Western diplomacy fails to halt Tehran’s atomic quest. So far, Israel has not received American authorization to use US-controlled Iraqi airspace, nor has the defense establishment been successful in securing the purchase of advanced US-made warplanes which could facilitate an Israeli strike. The Americans have also offered Israel permission to use a global early warning radar system, implying that the US is pushing Israel to settle for defensive measures only. However, an internal government discussion concluded Israel has no strategic depth, and the country cannot take a 'wait and see' approach and only retaliate in case of attack; rather Israel has little choice – absent US-led military action – to use preemption to prevent an Iranian first strike.


WASHINGTON — President Bush rebuked Russia for its "irresponsible decision" Tuesday to formally recognize two breakaway Georgian regions, which further raised fears of a new Cold War. Adding to the tension, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev threatened an unspecified military response if the United States follows through with a missile-defense system near Russia's borders in Poland and the Czech Republic. Bush warned Russia to respect the border of neighboring Georgia and its separatist provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which were at the heart of the week-long battle between Russia and Georgia this month. Bush pointed out that Medvedev's action is "inconsistent" with United Nations Security Council resolutions and with the cease-fire agreement.

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — A U.S. military ship carrying humanitarian aid docked at the Georgian Black Sea port of Batumi on Wednesday, avoiding the port of Poti, which is still controlled by Russian forces. The move came amid escalating tensions between Russia and Georgia's Western allies. Batumi, where the Coast Guard cutter Dallas docked, is well south of the zone of fighting in this month's war between Russia and Georgia.

BRUSSELS (AP) — A deal allowing NATO to supply its troops in Afghanistan using Russian territory is still valid despite Moscow's decision to freeze military cooperation over the Georgia crisis, Russia's top military envoy to the alliance said Wednesday. The agreement, signed in April by former Russian President Vladimir Putin, allows the transport of non-lethal supplies overland through Russia to the NATO-led force in Afghanistan. "We are not going to suspend the decision on nonmilitary cargo transport," Col. Andrey Zhukov, Russian's acting military representative at NATO, told reporters. A 2006 deal under which NATO nations lease transport planes from private companies from Russia and Ukraine is also unaffected by last week's decision by Moscow to suspend military cooperation, Zhukov told a news conference Wednesday.

CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — Russia's ambassador to Moldova has warned the country's leaders to avoid a "bloody and catastrophic trend of events" in a separatist Moldovan region. The Trans-Dniester region broke away from the former Soviet republic of Moldova in 1990. It is supported by Russia but is not recognized internationally. Russia has 1,500 troops stationed there to guard weapons facilities. Ambassador Valeri Kuzmin said late Tuesday that Moldova should draw its own conclusions over the events in Georgia. Russia recognized the independence of two Georgian breakaway regions.

VIENNA (AP) — Georgia's foreign minister warns that ethnic cleansing of Georgians is taking place in South Ossetia and will soon be completed. Eka Tkeshelashvili says the process is being implemented not only in villages in the conflict zone where Georgians and Ossetians lived together. Russian troops remain at checkpoints well into Georgia, saying that a cease-fire agreement allows them to occupy "security zones" outside Abkhazia and South Ossetia.


WASHINGTON — The United States is spending more money than ever on private security contractors in Iraq as thousands of troops return home amid steady declines in insurgent attacks, federal records show. This year, spending on contractors, who protect diplomats, civilian facilities and supply convoys, is projected to exceed $1.2 billion, according to federal contract and budget data obtained by USA TODAY. Most of that bill — about $1 billion —is State Department spending, which is up 13% over 2007. The remaining $200 million covers Pentagon contracts. Rising private security costs come as the Pentagon removes the last of the 30,000 extra troops sent to Iraq last year. Contractors take on roles once handled by U.S. troops, such as securing Iraq's infrastructure and guarding reconstruction supplies. Congress is raising concerns about the costs of relying on contractors for that work and the challenges of ensuring that they are supervised properly.

Sri Lanka

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — A bomb blast blamed on separatist Tamil Tigers wounded 45 people in Sri Lanka's capital Saturday, while renewed fighting in the embattled north killed 18 rebels and three soldiers, the military said. Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara accused the Tamil rebels of setting off the blast on a busy street in the heart of Colombo. Fighting in Sri Lanka's civil war has escalated in recent months, with the military capturing a series of rebel bases and large chunks of territory. Officials have reiterated a pledge to crush the guerrillas by the end of the year. The Tamil Tiger rebels have fought for an independent state in the north and east of the Indian ocean island since 1983, following decades of marginalization of ethnic Tamils by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.


The credit crisis took a heavier toll on banks in the second quarter of the year: The number of troubled banks rose 30%, to 117, the highest in five years, from 90 in the first quarter, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said. The surge in the FDIC's "problem banks" comes as the industry grapples with ballooning bad consumer loans and shrinking profits. Historically, about one in eight banks on the problem list have eventually failed. The FDIC also said that in the latest quarter, banks' profits plunged 87%, to $5 billion, compared with the same quarter a year ago. Overall, troubled banks represent only about 1.4% of 8,451 insured institutions. But the rise in troubled banks is worrisome because additional failures could worsen the economic downturn, analysts say. Ten banks have failed so far in 2008, compared with three in 2007.

Stung by mounting home-loan defaults, U.S. thrifts lost $5.4 billion in the second quarter and set aside a record amount to cover losses from bad mortgages and other loans. Data from the Office of Thrift Supervision issued Wednesday show that federally insured savings and loans posted their second-largest quarterly loss ever in the April-June period, after the $8.8 billion loss in the fourth quarter of last year. The $5.4 billion loss compared with net profit of $3.8 billion in the same period a year ago. The 829 thrifts also set aside a record $14 billion to cover losses from mortgages and other loans.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Personal income tumbled unexpectedly in July and spending slowed as the effects of government stimulus wore off and an inflation measure was at a 17-year high, a government report released Friday showed. Personal income fell 0.7% in July, the sharpest decline since a 2.3% plunge in August 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. Inflation-adjusted spending dropped 0.4%, the sharpest slide in four years. Inflation, as measured by the year-over-year rise in the personal consumption expenditures index, rose 4.5%, the steepest since February 1991.

NEW YORK (AP) — Nearly 1 million individuals and businesses filed bankruptcy in the 12 months ended June 30, up 28.9% from the prior 12 months, according to U.S. Court data released Wednesday. Of the 967,831 bankruptcy cases filed since July 1, 2007, non-business filings made up 96.5% of those cases, totaling 934,009. Of them, 592,376 were Chapter 7 filings, which involve liquidation of non-protected assets, like family homes.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Orders for durable manufactured goods jumped a surprising 1.3% in July on strong civilian aircraft sales, while a gauge of business investment also rose unexpectedly, a government report showed on Wednesday. Even when volatile transportation orders were stripped out, demand for durables rose 0.7%. Analysts had expected a 0.5% drop in durables orders excluding transportation. Non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, seen as a barometer of business spending, jumped 2.6%, steepest gain since April. Analysts were expecting that category to decline by 0.1%. Strength outside of transportation reflected strong gains in such areas as primary metals, including steel and machinery.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Economic growth rebounded at better-than-expected 3.3% annual rate in the April-June quarter, the government said Thursday. The Commerce Department says the economy shifted to a higher gear, growing at its fastest pace in nearly a year, as foreign buyers snapped up U.S. exports and tax rebates spurred shoppers at home. The revised reading was much better than the government's initial estimate of a 1.9% pace and exceeded economists' expectations for a 2.7% growth rate. The rebound comes after two dismal quarters. The economy shrank in the final three months of 2007 and limped into the first quarter at a feeble 0.9% annual growth rate. The 3.3% growth in the spring was the best performance since the third quarter last year, when the economy was chugging along at a brisk 4.8% pace.

Global Warming

ANCHORAGE — Arctic Ocean sea ice has melted to the second lowest minimum since satellite observations began, according to scientists at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center. Sea ice melt recorded on Monday exceeded the low recorded in 2005, which had held second place. With several weeks left in the melt season, ice in summer 2008 has a chance to diminish below the record low set last year, according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Environmental groups said the ice melt was another alarm bell warning of global warming.

  • JJ Commentary: The globe is warming, but it’s mostly due to natural (or supernatural end-time) causes. Humans are contributing, but only to a slight degree.


PHOENIX — Even by the Valley's temperamental monsoon weather standards, Thursday's storm was one for the ages. With wind gusts of up to 100 mph, more than 1,500 lightning strikes recorded in a single hour and a multimillion-dollar path of destruction stretching from the southeast Valley through central Phoenix, the monsoon storm left hundreds of thousands of area residents going to sleep without power and many more awestruck at the devastation when they awoke Friday morning. Nearly 80,000 Valley homes that lost electricity Thursday night. Hundred-year-old trees were uprooted in Phoenix, roofs were stripped throughout the Valley as block walls toppled and dumpsters were tossed around like tin cans; normally dry roads in Tempe became small lakes and large swaths of the Valley went dark as power poles snapped like toothpicks. The most visible damage came at Arizona State University in Tempe, where an $8.4 million indoor-athletic facility was demolished.

SUPAI - An American Indian village and Grand Canyon tourist spot hit by flooding won't reopen to visitors for at least six months. The Havasupai tribe had hoped to reopen its village, campsites and hiking trails within weeks of the Aug. 16 flood, but damage was more extensive than first thought.


BEIJING (AP) — A 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck China's southwestern Sichuan province Saturday, killing three people, state media said. Residents of Kunming, the capital of neighboring Yunnan province, felt a strong shock from the earthquake, with many running into the streets despite falling rain. A duty officer at the State Seismology Bureau said the quake occurred in a mountainous area. On May 12, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake in northern Sichuan killed nearly 70,000 people and left 5 million homeless. The region has been hit by scores of aftershocks, keeping people there on edge.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Praise Reports

Heavy rains from Tropical Storm Fay are alleviating a drought that has bedeviled the Southeast for years, and another storm on the horizon could help even further, National Weather Service experts said Monday. Further relief could come from Tropical Storm Gustav, which was forecast to roll over Haiti today, Oravec said. Little rain has fallen during winter and spring across much of the South in the past three years. For two years, no tropical storms delivered rain in summer and fall to northern Georgia and the western Carolinas. Lakes went dry and streambeds dropped to 20% of normal levels.

This year, as gasoline climbed over $4 a gallon, the traffic death toll — according to one study — appears headed to the lowest levels since John F. Kennedy moved into the White House. The number of fatalities is being pulled down by a change in Americans' driving habits, which is fueled largely by record high gasoline prices, according to the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan. Over the previous 10 months, monthly fatalities declined an average of 4.2% compared to the previous year. Then, fatalities dropped 22.1% in March and 17.9% in April of this year. If the pattern continues for the rest of this year, it would lead to "an unheard of improvement" in motor vehicle fatalities.


RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Israel on Monday freed nearly 200 jailed Palestinians — including a militant mastermind from the 1970s — in a goodwill gesture just hours before U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was to begin her latest peace mission to the region. The prisoners returned to cheers and applause as they entered Palestinian-controlled territory before heading to a massive rally attended by thousands of people at the headquarters of President Mahmoud Abbas. Among the 198 Palestinians freed was Said al-Atba, who has served 32 years of a life sentence for carrying out a deadly market bombing in the 1970s. Al-Atba, 57, was the longest serving inmate held by Israel and he is widely seen by the Palestinian public as a symbol of all the prisoners. Israel said the release was a gesture meant to bolster Abbas and his western-leaning administration and give a boost to the slow-moving peace talks with the moderate Palestinian leader. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice returns to the Mideast this week amid dwindling hopes for securing an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal by a year-end target.

WorldNetDaily: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, completing a visit to the region today, has been pressing Israel to sign a document by the end of the year that would divide Jerusalem by offering the Palestinians a state in Israel's capital city as well as in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, according to top diplomatic sources involved in the talks. The Israeli team, led by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, has been negotiating the division of Jerusalem – despite claims to the contrary – but would rather conclude an agreement on paper by the end of the year that would give the Palestinians a state in the West Bank, Gaza and some Israeli territory, leaving conclusions on Jerusalem for a later date, the informed diplomatic sources told WND. The sources said the Palestinian team has been pushing to conclude a deal by January on all core issues, including Jerusalem, and has been petitioning the U.S. to pressure Israel into signing an agreement on paper that offers the Palestinians eastern Jerusalem.
  • JJ Commentary: Dividing Jerusalem will pierce God’s heart and grieve the Holy Spirit, not to mention the curses that will be reaped from such ungodly dealings.


MOSCOW (AP) — Defying the United States and Europe, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced Tuesday he has signed a decree recognizing the independence of the breakaway Georgian territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Few other nations are likely to follow Russia's lead but the move is sure to further escalate tensions between Moscow and the West. Experts say the move gives the Kremlin an extra bargaining chip in its dealings with the West as it tries to reassert influence in the former Soviet republics and resist moves by Georgia and Ukraine to join NATO. Medvedev's declaration comes as Russian forces remain in Georgia after a war, staking out positions beyond the de-facto borders of the separatist regions. Abkhazia and South Ossetia have effectively ruled themselves following wars with Georgia in the 1990s. Russia's military presence seems likely to further weaken Georgia, a Western ally in the Caucasus region, a major transit corridor for energy supplies to Europe and a strategic crossroads close to the Middle East, Iran, Afghanistan, Russia and energy-rich Central Asia.

In a direct challenge to Russia, the United States announced Tuesday it intends to deliver humanitarian aid to the beleaguered Georgian port city of Poti, which Russian troops still control through checkpoints on the city's outskirts. The aid will be delivered Wednesday by ship, a U.S. embassy spokesman said. Western nations have called the Russian military presence in Poti a clear violation of an EU-brokered cease-fire. In a move that angered Russia, the United States sent the missile destroyer USS McFaul to the southern Georgian port of Batumi, well away from the conflict zone, to deliver 34 tons of humanitarian aid on Sunday.

A Congressional battle over funding of a U.S. missile defense plan in Eastern Europe threatens to undermine the Bush administration's case that the system is not aimed at Russia. President George W. Bush's administration has argued that the missile shield — bolstered last week by an agreement to allow U.S. interceptors in Poland — was aimed at securing the United States and allies in the region from nuclear threats by North Korea and Iran. But as Republicans try to convince Democrats to speed along legislation to fund the program, they are pointing to Russia's invasion of Georgia as a reason the program is vital. The rhetoric risks strengthening Moscow's argument that the system is merely a new Cold War incarnation directed against them.

Iran’s Nuclear Plans Proceed With Russian Assistance

Iran announced on Monday that it has launched a domestic production line for a mid-size submarine that will be able to fire missiles and torpedoes, state TV reported. Iranian officials noted the "Ghaem" submarine was part of the regime's huge investments in attaining self-sufficiency and equipping its armed forces with modern weapons. The report claimed two other submarines have already been delivered to the Iranian Navy, to serve alongside two submarines acquired from Russia. Meanwhile on Sunday, Iran’s official news agency IRNA reported that the regime has started planning its second nuclear power plant in Darkhovin, in the southwest of the country. The deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Saeedi, was quoted as saying that specialists have chosen the location for the 360-megawatt, light-water nuclear facility where it will use resources from the area. Tehran hopes to activate by year's end its first nuclear power facility in southern Bushehr, a plant built with Russian assistance.

Iraq Troop Withdrawal

CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) — President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have spoken by phone as work on a plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by 2011 continues. White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Friday that Bush and the al-Maliki "had a good conversation." But he added "there are a lot of details that have to be worked out." The deal now under discussion between U.S. and Iraqi negotiators sets a course for American combat troops to pull out of major Iraqi cities by next June, with a broader exit two years later from the long and costly war that began in March 2003. The dates could be changed if security and political progress in Iraq deteriorate. There are about 140,000 U.S. forces in Iraq, according to United States Central Command, and more than 4,100 American troops have been killed there.


KABUL, Afghanistan - Taliban insurgents once derided as a ragtag rabble unable to match U.S. troops have transformed into a fighting force - one advanced enough to mount major conventional attacks and claim American lives at a record pace. The U.S. military suffered its 101st death of the year in Afghanistan last week. The total number of U.S. dead last year, 111, was a record itself and is likely to be surpassed. Top U.S. generals, European presidents and analysts say the blame lies to the east, in militant sanctuaries in neighboring Pakistan. As long as those areas remain havens where fighters arm, train, recruit and plot increasingly sophisticated ambushes, the Afghan war will continue to sour. "The U.S. is now losing the war against the Taliban," Anthony Cordesman of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote in a report Thursday.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Scores of Afghan civilians who had gathered in a small village for the memorial ceremony of a militia commander were killed when U.S. and Afghan soldiers launched an attack in the middle of the night, officials and villagers said Saturday. President Hamid Karzai condemned the early Friday operation in western Afghanistan and said most of the dead were civilians. Amid allegations that large numbers of civilians have died in recent raids and airstrikes by foreign forces, President Karzai's government has demanded a review of the presence of U.S. and NATO troops in the country. The government Monday ordered its foreign affairs and defense ministries to review the presence of foreign troops, regulate their presence with a status of forces agreement and negotiate a possible end to "air strikes on civilian targets, uncoordinated house searches and illegal detention of Afghan civilians."


ISLAMABAD, PakistanPakistan's governing coalition is crumbling just a week after it muscled pro-U.S. President Pervez Musharraf from office. The squabbling is reviving memories of the divisive politics of the '90s and distracting attention from the fight against Islamic militants. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is threatening to withdraw his Pakistan Muslim League from a government led by the rival Pakistan Peoples Party of slain leader Benazir Bhutto. Sharif has vowed to leave the coalition Monday unless the Peoples Party agrees to reinstate dozens of judges Musharraf removed last year. Public anger over Musharraf's high-handed treatment of the judiciary helped Sharif's Muslim League and the Peoples Party rout a pro-Musharraf party in February elections and take control of parliament. Earlier this month, the coalition united to begin impeachment proceedings against Musharraf, who resigned last Monday to avoid the humiliation of being cast from office. But once their common nemesis was gone, the two parties reverted to form and began fighting over power.


ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) (AP) — al-Qaeda's North African branch claimed to have killed at least 130 people in Algeria in a spate of attacks this month — nearly twice the official death toll, said a statement carried on a website frequently used by militants. The group described the attacks targeting a police academy, a military barracks and a Canadian engineering company this week as its retaliation against security forces for their recent crackdown on militants. The militant group also denied Algerian government claims that it was targeting the general population, insisting that it only hit security forces, which it accused of being apostates, or traitors to Islam. The bombings "killed more than 130 apostates, wounded more than 100, and destroyed three barracks and several vehicles," the militant group said in a statement carried late Friday on a website often used by militants.

North Korea

SEOUL (AP) — North Korea said Tuesday it has stopped disabling its nuclear reactor and will consider restoring the plutonium-producing facility in anger over Washington's failure to remove it from the U.S. list of terror sponsors. The North's statement marks the emergence of the biggest hurdle yet to the communist nation's denuclearization process and is expected to escalate tension in the nuclear talks involving China, Japan, the two Koreas, the U.S.Russia. Removal from the terror list is one of the key concessions offered to the North in exchange for shutting down and disabling the reactor under a landmark six-nation deal reached last year. In late June, the U.S. announced that it would delist the North as a terror sponsor after Pyongyang turned in a long-delayed account of its nuclear programs and blew up the reactor's cooling tower in a symbolic move to demonstrate its denuclearization commitment.

Illegal Immigration

LAUREL, Miss. (AP) — Federal immigration agents arrested some 350 suspected undocumented workers in a raid on a Mississippi electrical equipment plant Monday. Barbara Gonzalez, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman, confirmed the arrests in the raid that she said targeted Howard Industries Inc. of Laurel. Authorities said more people could be arrested.

NEWSMAX: Law officers in a D.C. suburb have found one way to cut crime drastically. Crack down on illegal immigration. Virginia’s Prince William County has turned over 875 illegal aliens for deportation since 2006, and the crime rate has dropped nearly 20%. Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act authorizes local police to enforce immigration laws. Another jurisdiction using Section 287(g) is Maricopa County, Arizona. Sheriff Joe Arpaio says he has 160 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)-trained officers, the most of any municipality in the country.

Fox News is reporting that streams of illegal immigrants are heading home to Mexico. In fact, the report said the exodus numbers are the highest they’ve been in decades. So far this year 1.3 million have decided the grass is greener in their homeland. And since last August, the illegal immigrant population has dropped 11 percent. So why are they leaving? As this report suggests, if the Federal government enforces existing immigration laws by taking away jobs, housing, and social benefits, illegal aliens will leave on their own.


CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) — A national survey shows gasoline prices have dropped 15 cents a gallon in the last two weeks. The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline at self-serve stations was $3.70 Friday. Mid-grade was at $3.83 and premium was at $3.95. Diesel was at $3.82. Despite the drop, gas nationally was almost 95 cents higher than a year ago.

NEW YORK (AP) — Home prices in a widely watched housing index dropped by the sharpest rate ever in the second quarter. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index tumbled a record 15.4% from last year, S&P said Tuesday. Meanwhile, sales of new single-family homes in July were lower than economists expected but rose from a June pace that was the slowest in nearly 17 years, a government report showed.

NEW YORK (AP) — Standard & Poor's Index Services said Monday that preliminary figures show second-quarter operating earnings for the S&P 500 companies fell 29%, the fourth straight quarterly decline for the index of large companies, but excluding the financial sector, S&P 500 operating earnings rose 3.2%. The financial sector was the only sector to have a negative result for operating earnings, showing a loss of 4.1%. There are 88 financial companies in the index.

New Orleans – It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Signs are emerging that history is repeating itself in the Big Easy, still healing from Katrina: People have forgotten what happened after the last hurricane and again believe the federal government is constructing a levee system they can prosper behind. In a year-long review of levee work here, The Associated Press has tracked a pattern of public misperception, political jockeying and legal fighting, along with economic and engineering miscalculations since Katrina, that threaten to make New Orleans the scene of another devastating flood. Dozens of interviews with engineers, historians, policymakers and flood zone residents confirmed many have not learned from public policy mistakes made after Hurricane Betsy in 1965, which set the stage for Katrina; many mistakes are being repeated. A recent University of New Orleans survey of residents found concern about levee safety was dropping off the list of top worries, replaced by crime, incompetent leadership and corruption. The Department of Defense will hire an independent engineering company to review allegations that pumps installed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina weren't adequately tested and might fail during a hurricane.

NEW ORLEANS — The Federal Emergency Management Agency has paid nearly $3 billion in hotel bills and rental assistance for the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita — by far the costliest emergency housing effort in the nation's history, according to government statistics. On the cusp of the storms' three-year anniversaries, more than 14,000 families remain in FEMA-funded apartments across the Gulf Coast and as far away as Alaska. The spending continues today because three years of labor and planning across the Gulf Coast has not replaced enough of the homes and apartments the storms destroyed. The price tag far outdistances housing costs after any other U.S. disaster, FEMA statistics show. The agency spent less than $250 million on housing for the previous six hurricanes combined, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Weather Signs

STEINHATCHEE, Fla. (AP) — Tropical Storm Fay's path Saturday crossing the Florida Panhandle vaulted the stubborn weather system into the record books. The tropical storm crossed over the central Florida Panhandle at 5 a.m., the first in recorded history to hit the state with such intensity four different times. Though Fay never materialized into a hurricane, its zigzagging downpours have been plenty punishing. "The damage from Fay is a reminder that a tropical storm does not have to reach a hurricane level to be dangerous and cause significant damage," said Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who toured flooded communities this week. Crist said the storm damaged 1,572 homes in Brevard County alone, dropping 25 inches of rain in Melbourne. The remnants of Tropical Storm Fay lumbered inland Sunday, dumping heavy rains across the South and putting Gulf Coast cities including New Orleans on flood watch as the region prepares to mark the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina this week. The storm still has a few days left before it peters out, said Mike Eckert, a meteorologist at the center in Camp Springs, Md. "Fay is not finished yet," he said. "Sometimes, the weaker storms that move very, very slowly can be your biggest rainfall makers."

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — At least four tornadoes touched down southeast of Denver on Sunday, the eve of the Democratic National Convention. The twisters caused no substantial damage but brought out amateur storm-chasers and cast a spooky pall over the city. Authorities said one twister touched down about 20 miles southeast of downtown Denver, between the towns of Castle Rock and Parker. Television footage showed a dusty twister spinning through relatively open country, with scattered houses nearby.

LEWISTON, Maine — People worried about the high cost of keeping warm this winter will draw little comfort from the Farmers' Almanac, which predicts below-average temperatures for most of the U.S. "Numb's the word," says the 192-year-old publication, which claims an accuracy rate of 80 to 85% for its forecasts that are prepared two years in advance. The almanac's 2009 edition, which goes on sale Tuesday, says at least two-thirds of the country can expect colder-than-average temperatures this winter, with only the Far West and Southeast in line for near-normal readings.

PATNA, India (AP) — Authorities struggled Monday to get aid to more than 1 million people stranded by floods in a north Indian state, with one local government leader describing the situation as a catastrophe. Air force helicopters and troops were trying to get food to people in the stricken areas of Bihar state that were inundated by flood waters last week after torrential rains caused the Kosi river in neighboring Nepal to burst its banks. "It is not a normal flood, but a catastrophe," said Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar after making an aerial survey of the ravaged districts.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Praise Reports

The argument for embryonic stem cells as the potential solution for a vast array of human diseases has taken another significant hit with the successful testing of an adult cell that can match tissues in the heart, lung, liver, pancreas, blood vessels, brain, muscle, bone and fat. The San Francisco research and development company Medistem Inc. says its newest tests reveal the cell can regenerate failed blood vessels, allowing a restoration of health in limbs once given no alternative but amputation. Many medical researchers long have cited their desire for embryonic stem cells to study as a possible solution to myriad human diseases, although few results actually have been documented. Now officials with Medistem Laboratories have confirmed their Endometrial Regenerative Cell has treated an advanced form of peripheral artery disease known as critical limb ischemia successfully. In a peer reviewed publication, the team supported by Medistem said the administration of ERC "preserved leg function and viability in animals induced to mimic the human condition of critical limb ischemia."

Japanese scientists said Friday they had derived stem cells from wisdom teeth, opening another way to study deadly diseases without the ethical controversy of using embryos. Researchers at the government-backed National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology said they created stem cells of the type found in human embryos using the removed wisdom teeth of a 10-year-old girl. "This is significant in two ways," team leader Hajime Ogushi told AFP. "One is that we can avoid the ethical issues of stem cells because wisdom teeth are destined to be thrown away anyway. "Also, we used teeth that had been extracted three years ago and had been preserved in a freezer. That means that it's easy for us to stock this source of stem cells."

Iraq Troop Withdrawal

"U.S. and Iraqi negotiators reached agreement on a security deal that calls for American military forces to leave Iraq's cities by next summer as a prelude to a full withdrawal of combat troops from the country," senior American officials told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday. "The draft agreement sets 2011 as the goal date by which U.S. combat troops will leave Iraq, according to Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Haj Humood and other people familiar with the matter," the Journal says. "In the meantime, American troops will be leaving cities, towns and other population centers by the summer of 2009, living in bases outside of those areas, according to the draft." An anonymous Iraqi official told the AP that under the agreement, all U.S. troops would leave Iraqi cities by June 30 and be out of the country by the end of 2011. The final draft was finished last week but the Iraqi Cabinet has not signed off and many of its members have signaled doubts. The official says a compromise was reached on the contentious issue of immunity for American troops but did not give details.

Gay Marriage

Portland, Ore. - Most states don't recognize same-sex "marriage" -- but now Hallmark does. The nation's largest greeting card company is rolling out homosexual wedding cards -- featuring two tuxedos, overlapping hearts or intertwined flowers, with best wishes inside. "Two hearts. One promise," one says. Hallmark added the cards after California joined Massachusetts as the only U.S. states with legal homosexual marriage. A handful of other states have recognized same-sex civil unions. The language inside the cards is neutral, with no mention of wedding or marriage, making them also suitable for a commitment ceremony. Hallmark says the move is a response to consumer demand, not any political pressure. "It's our goal to be as relevant as possible to as many people as we can," Hallmark spokeswoman Sarah Gronberg Kolell said. Hallmark's largest competitor, American Greetings Corp., has no plans to enter the market, saying its current offerings are general enough to speak to a lot of different relationships. Hallmark started offering "coming out" cards last year, and the four designs of same-sex marriage cards are being gradually released this summer and will be widely available by next year.

Portland, Oregon (AP) — At the request of a lesbian couple, the Coquille Indian Tribe on the southern Oregon coast has adopted a law recognizing same-sex marriage. Tribal law specialists say the Coquille appear to be the first American Indian tribe to sanction such marriages. Most tribal law doesn't address the issue. The Navajo and Cherokee tribes prohibit same-sex marriages. Legal scholars said that tribes do have authority over domestic relations among tribal members, but the U.S. Congress may have the ultimate say-so. The tribes have all the rights they have historically held unless Congress takes them away or the tribes give them up by treaty.

HHS: Doctors Can Refuse Abortions

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Bush administration on Thursday proposed stronger job protections for doctors and other health care workers who refuse to participate in abortions because of religious or moral objections. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said that health care professionals should not face retaliation from employers or from medical societies because they object to abortion. "Freedom of conscience is not to be surrendered upon issuance of a medical degree," said Leavitt. "This nation was built on a foundation of free speech. The first principle of free speech is protected conscience." The proposed rule, which applies to institutions receiving government money, would require as many as 584,000 employers ranging from major hospitals to doctors' offices and nursing homes to certify in writing that they are complying with several federal laws that protect the conscience rights of health care workers. Violations could lead to a loss of government funding and legal action to recoup federal money already paid. Abortion foes called it a victory for the First Amendment, but abortion rights supporters said they feared the rule could stretch the definition of abortion to include birth control, and served notice that they intend to challenge the administration.

ACLU Tries to Direct Content of Public Prayers

The American Civil Liberties Union is asking the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to tell private citizens how and what they can pray before meetings of the Cobb County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners. The ACLU actually suggested to the court that Cobb County officials be ordered to send letters to invited clergy telling them "not to invoke religious messages" in their opening prayers and the commissioners' meetings. Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel for Plano, TX-based Liberty Legal Institute, wonders if this is an episode of the Twilight Zone. "I think this is really where you pull the cover off and see what you're really looking at with the ACLU," the attorney responds. "This is religious bigotry; it's anti-free speech; it's everything that they're supposed to be against. The idea that the ACLU would want the government to tell people how they should or should not pray is outrageous."

  • JJ Commentary: Prayers without invoking “religious messages” is oxymoronic.

Amish Population Nearly Doubles in 16 Years

In spite of relatively little outreach, the United States' Amish population has grown from an estimated 123,000 in 1992 to an estimated 227,000 today, Associated Press reports. This growth in population has led to an exodus extending far beyond their traditional homes as they journey to affordable farmland in seven new states since 1992. "When we think they might be dying out or merely surviving, they are actually thriving," said Elizabethtown professor Don Kraybill, a leading expert on the Amish who shared his research from an upcoming book with The Associated Press. Most of the growth comes from birth and retention rates; most Amish couples have at least five children, and more than four out of five decide to stay within the church.

More Americans Question Religion's Role in Politics

Some Americans are having achange of heart about mixing religion and politics. A new national survey finds a narrow majority of the public saying that churches and other houses of worship should keep out of political matters and not express their views on day-to-day social and political matters. For a decade, majorities of Americans had voiced support for religious institutions speaking out on such issues. The latest survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted from July 31-Aug. 10 among 2,905 adults, reveals that most of the reconsideration of the desirability of religious involvement in politics has occurred among conservatives. Four years ago, just 30% of conservatives believed that churches and other houses of worship should stay out of politics. Today, 50% of conservatives express this view. The new survey finds that conservatives' views on this issue are much more in line with the views of moderates and liberals than was previously the case. Similarly, the sharp divisions between Republicans and Democrats that previously existed on this issue have disappeared.

  • JJ Commentary: Yet another sign that the Christian foundation of our country is continuing to erode.

Feds Scrap Immigrant Self-Deportation Program

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A pilot program allowing illegal immigrants to surrender to authorities and have more control over their deportation has been dubbed a failure. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it is ending its "Scheduled Departure" program when the three-week trial concludes Friday. Only eight people participated in the program, officials said. "Quite frankly, I think this proves the only method that works is enforcement," Jim Hayes, acting director of ICE's detention and removal operations, told The Associated Press on Thursday. ICE said it hatched the plan to give illegal immigrants more control over their departure and to quell criticism by immigrant advocates that its enforcement efforts were disruptive to families. While immigrant rights activists ridiculed the program, they're now worried its failure will embolden enforcement. Immigrant advocates said the program flopped because it offered few incentives for illegal immigrants to step forward since they would be barred from returning to the country for as long as a decade. ICE offered the program to 457,000 illegal immigrants nationwide who have ignored judicial orders to leave the country but have no criminal record. They were promised up to 90 days to plan their exit and coordinate travel with relatives.


IGOETI, Georgiac (AP) — A Russian armored column moved away from a base in western Georgia and Russian forces also were leaving the key central city of Gori on Friday, the day that Russia's president had said a pullback would be complete. No Russian forces could be seen Friday afternoon in and around Igoeti, which had been their closest position to Georgia's capital. Russia sent its tanks and troops into Georgia after Georgiaprovince of South Ossetia. Fighting also has flared in a second Georgian breakaway region, Abkhazia. The short war has driven tensions between RussiaSoviet Union. launched a heavy artillery barrage Aug. 7 on the separatist, pro-Russian and the West to some of their highest levels since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.

It may not be possible for the 12,000 ethnic Georgians to return home who have fled the territory after the Russian military assault began nearly two weeks ago. The Russian offensive has altered the balance of power in South Ossetia, just as it has chilled the relationship between Moscow and Washington more than at any time since the Cold War. A result of the fighting is that Georgians may no longer be welcome in long-troubled South Ossetia. Russian troops control South Ossetia, the area at the heart of the Georgia-Russia conflict. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says he doesn't want to give it up. A top Russian general said Wednesday that 64 of the country's soldiers were killed in this month's fighting with Georgia and 323 were wounded. South Ossetian officials on Wednesday said 1,492 civilians in the breakaway province had been killed.

The world's major industrial countries are calling for increased economic support for war-torn Georgia. Finance ministers from the Group of Seven leading industrial countries issued a joint statement Wednesday pledging support for Georgia's economy and its financial system. They also urged other countries and institutions to assist in the effort. "We, the G-7, stand ready to support Georgia in order to promote the continued health of the Georgian economy, maintain confidence in Georgia's financial system and support economic reconstruction," the finance officials said.


WARSAW (AP) — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Polish counterpart signed a deal Wednesday to build a U.S. missile defense base in Poland, an agreement that prompted an infuriated Russia to warn of a possible attack against the former Soviet satellite. The deal to install 10 U.S. interceptor missiles just 115 miles from Russia's westernmost frontier also has strained relations between Moscow and the West, ties that already troubled by Russia's invasion of its former Soviet neighbor, U.S. ally Georgia, earlier this month.


Chinese police sentenced two elderly women to a year of "re-education through labor" because they requested permission to protest during the Olympics in Beijing. "The two women, both in their late 70s, have never spoken out against China’s authoritarian government. Both walk with the help of a cane, and [one] is blind in one eye," The New York Times reports. "Their grievance, receiving insufficient compensation when their homes were seized for redevelopment, is perhaps the most common complaint among Chinese displaced during the country’s long streak of fast economic growth." China had promised to allow protests in designated areas during the international sporting events. "But with four days left before the closing ceremony, the authorities acknowledge that they have yet to allow a single protest," the Times says. "They claim that most of the people who filed applications had their grievances addressed, obviating the need for a public expression of discontent."

Nuclear Pact

VIENNA (AP) — Iraq has signed a global treaty banning all nuclear explosions. The organization that administers the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty says Iraq is the 179th country to sign onto the ban. However for the treaty to go into effect it must be signed and ratified by 44 states that participated in a 1996 disarmament conference and had nuclear power or research reactors at the time. Thirty-five of those countries have ratified the pact, including Britain, France and Russia. The holdouts include the United States, Iran and North Korea.


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Two suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of Pakistan's main weapons complex Thursday, killing 59 people and wounding 70, officials said. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack, one of the bloodiest yet in Pakistan's intensifying war with insurgent groups that are also destabilizing Afghanistan. Pakistani forces are involved in an escalating battle with Islamic extremists in two nearby regions of the country's violence-plagued northwest, despite government efforts to negotiate peace with extremist groups. Maulvi Umar, a spokesman for Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, a militant umbrella group, said the suicide bombings were revenge for airstrikes in Bajur, a militant stronghold near the Afghan border.


Construction spending by federal, state and local governments has reached record levels, lifting the economy and employing some blue-collar workers despite a collapse in home building. Governments are on track to spend a record $300 billion this year on schools, roads, bridges and other projects, the Census Bureau reports. That's a 7% increase on top of a 12.4% jump last year, the biggest increase since 1993, when the agency began tracking construction spending. In a dramatic reversal, government projects now generate more spending than construction of homes and apartments. By contrast, in 2005, residential construction generated a record $481 billion — more than twice what governments spent. The government construction boom is winning plaudits from economists and fiscal conservatives. "Tax rebates peter out. Building a new bridge helps the economy long after the work is done," says University of Oregon economist Mark Thoma.

Mortgage applications fell last week despite a drop in interest rates, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday. The fall in application volume is the latest sign of a struggling housing market. On Tuesday, a Commerce Department report showed construction of homes and apartments fell in July to the lowest level in more than 17 years. And while fewer new homes are being built, fewer customers are also refinancing existing mortgages.

Consumers should brace for the biggest increase in food prices in nearly 20 years in 2008 and even more pain next year due to surging meat and produce prices, the Agriculture Department said Wednesday. Food prices are forecast to rise by 5% to 6% this year, making it the largest annual increase since 1990. Just last month The forecast, if correct, would be the third straight year where food prices have surged at least 4%. USDA also forecast increases this year of 9.5% for cereals and bakery products, a 14% surge for eggs and a 13.5% hike for fats and oils.

Weather Signs

GAUHATI, India (AP) — Monsoon floods have left nearly 80,000 people stranded and dependent on emergency aid for food and water in India's remote northeast, an official said Wednesday. Authorities used motorboats to rush aid to flood victims in more than 70 inundated villages on Majuli, one of Asia's largest freshwater islands located in the Brahmaputra River. Heavy monsoon rains have been lashing the region since Monday, and officials warn that more rain will fall in the flood-prone region in the coming days. Last year, floodwaters submerged nearly half of Majuli island and forced up to 30,000 people to flee to higher ground. Floods, mudslides, house collapses and lightning strikes have killed at least 225 people across the country so far this year.

MELBOURNE, Fla. — Tropical Storm Fay continued its slow, wet trudge across Florida for a fifth day Friday, prompting communities farther inland and on the state's Gulf coast to brace for what could be drenching rains. The erratic storm has dumped more than two feet of rain along parts of Florida's low-lying central Atlantic coast. It is just the fourth storm to make landfall in Florida three separate times, and the first in nearly 50 years. Before it crosses the Panhandle by the weekend, it could bring buckets of rain and power outages. Isolated tornadoes were possible in parts of northeastern Florida, southeastern Georgia and southern South Carolina, the National Hurricane Center said. As if a fifth straight day of rain from Tropical Storm Fay wasn't enough, weary residents are now dealing with quintessentially Floridian fallout: -- alligators, snakes and other critters that have been driven from their swampy lairs into flooded streets, backyards and doorsteps.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Praise Report

WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands of evangelical Christians converged on the National Mall here Saturday to highlight moral issues before the fall presidential election with a day of fasting, prayer and music. Organizers of TheCall DC said 70,000 people turned out for the event, though that number could not be confirmed independently by the National Park Service. "It was a spiritual confrontation," said Lou Engle, the evangelical activist who founded TheCall in 2000, "challenging the nation to end abortion and releasing God to act on behalf of ... the unborn." The 12-hour event featured a variety of speakers, including former Republican presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Anita King, niece of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Fighting abortion took center stage, but a range of issues was addressed, including immigration and gay marriage. Engle warned of the "homosexual agenda," and announced a plan for "40 days of prayer and fasting for California" ahead of the state's fall referendum on gay marriage. TheCall was first held here eight years ago, when an estimated 400,000 people attended the event. Similar Calls have been held in 12 cities and six countries.

Lakeland Fallout

Todd Bentley will step down as head of Fresh Fire Ministries, after the ministry revealed he had an "unhealthy relationship" with a female staffer. That announcement comes one week after Bentley's ministry announced he and his wife were separating. Bentley is best known for leading a series of public meetings in Florida since April that have attracted around 300,000 people to churches and a baseball stadium. The Canadian evangelist will also cease all public meetings, including a 38-city stadium tour of U.S. cities. In a recent article in Charisma magazine on the meetings, editor Lee Grady said many of those who defended Bentley displayed a "lack of discernment," in part because of a "raw zeal for God." Grady also criticized GodTV for telling people that any criticism of Bentley was "demonic." GodTV carried the Lakeland meetings live every night.

What About Doctors, Rights?

The same California Supreme Court that created a "right" to homosexual "marriage" earlier this year has now ruled that the state may force healthcare professionals to provide services that support an immoral and physically dangerous lifestyle. California's highest court was unanimous in its decision on Monday that Christian doctors may not refuse to perform artificial insemination for homosexual patients. Attorney Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), said, “This is a clear violation of the fundamental rights of individuals to live and practice their faith," he states bluntly. "Forcing doctors to have to choose between being a doctor and being a Christian in the State of California is an outrageous violation of the fundamental rights of every American to be able to practice their faith and not to have to leave their occupation because of it." In the case in question, the Christian doctors refused to perform artificial insemination on a lesbian patient, but did refer her to another doctor who would perform the elective treatment. Dacus says that proves this suit was not about guaranteeing "healthcare" for homosexuals, but instead about punishing Christians for obeying God's Word.

Doctor God

When it comes to saving lives, God trumps doctors for many Americans. An eye-opening survey reveals widespread belief that divine intervention can revive dying patients. And, researchers said, doctors "need to be prepared to deal with families who are waiting for a miracle." More than half of randomly surveyed adults — 57% — said God's intervention could save a family member even if physicians declared treatment would be futile. And nearly three-quarters said patients have a right to demand such treatment. When asked to imagine their own relatives being gravely ill or injured, nearly 20% of doctors and other medical workers said God could reverse a hopeless outcome. "Sensitivity to this belief will promote development of a trusting relationship" with patients and their families, according to researchers. That trust, they said, is needed to help doctors explain objective, overwhelming scientific evidence showing that continued treatment would be worthless.

· JJ Commentary: Most people look to God in major crises, but forget about Him and His commandments the rest of the time.


WASHINGTON — Wholesale prices took another unexpectedly steep jump in July and shot up at the fastest year-on-year rate in 27 years, according to a government report Tuesday that is certain to fan fears about a surge in inflation. In a second report Tuesday, the Commerce Department said housing starts in July fell 11% to the lowest annual rate in more than 17 years, while building permits, an indicator of future activity, tumbled 17.7%. The Labor Department's producer price index, which measures prices at the wholesale level, climbed 1.2% after a 1.8% gain in June. And so-called core producer prices, which exclude food and energy, jumped 0.7% in July after a 0.2% June increase. Price increases are spreading outside the food and energy sectors.

The average retail price for gasoline fell to its lowest level in 14 weeks, as cheaper crude oil costs are passed on to the pump and Americans drive less, the government said Monday. The national price for regular unleaded gasoline declined 6.9 cents over the last week to $3.74 a gallon, the federal Energy Information Administration said in its weekly survey of service stations. Gasoline is the cheapest since May 12, but still 96 cents a gallon higher than a year ago.

Energy Dilemma

As oil and natural-gas prices remain high and lawmakers agonize over whether to drill for oil in environmentally sensitive areas, coal looms as an antidote — still relatively cheap despite recent price surges because of a boom in exports. While coal-fired power plants generate half of U.S. electricity, coal is the biggest carbon dioxide producer, accounting for 40% of worldwide emissions. CO2 is the chief culprit in global warming. To environmentalists, coal is public enemy No. 1. A bill to curb global-warming gases fizzled in Congress in June, partly because of opposition from Peabody and the coal industry. It would have forced utilities and others to buy permits to emit carbon, passing the costs to consumers and boosting electric rates up to 45% by 2020.

About 30 coal-fired power plants are under construction around the country, the most in a generation. Yet the likelihood of climate-change legislation after a new president takes office has prompted U.S. utilities to cancel or delay about 60 coal plants the past year. That has injected at least a sliver of uncertainty into the coal industry's future: Some experts say its prospects are bleak if technology to capture CO2 at coal plants and store it underground — preventing its release through the smokestack — proves too expensive for utilities.

· JJ Commentary: More CO2 or less oil dependence. They typical choice between the lesser of two evils that constantly confronts a fallen world – i.e. until Jesus returns and “restores all things.”